Some Random Thoughts on Captain Marvel

In no particular order. Spoiler warnings in effect.

Erik’s random thoughts:

  • My overall impression of this movie is that it was good, but not great. And that’s fine. For Marvel’s first woman-led movie, the pressure is on to excel, and we would have loved it if this movie had measured up to some of the great Marvel triumphs like Avengers and Black Panther, but it’s also perfectly okay for this movie to just be perfectly okay. In a franchise where Tony Stark gets six or seven movies to learn not to be a total raging jerk all the time, there’s plenty of room for women to lead good, great, and even not-so-great movies.
  • As someone who doesn’t know the comic character, I was rather lost for the first hour or so until Carol Danvers’s history finally got explained. Some of the narrative choices made in the first half of the movie even seemed to deliberately push Carol’s confusion about her identity onto the audience. I expect to enjoy the movie more on a second or third viewing when I can focus on the characters and the action rather than trying to sort out who is who, where we are in the timeline, and which memories are reliable.
  • There are also some individual plot elements that would have benefited from taking a little more time to introduce and develop, like the background of the Pegasus project, Mar-Vel’s plans, “Vers’s” relationship with Yon-Rog, and the power-inhibiting neck disk. As it is, there are some moments in the film that don’t have the emotional weight they should because we lack an adequate set-up.
  • They’ve really nailed the de-aging technology. In the brief scenes they’ve done in previous movies it’s been very good, but still looked a little fake. Even Coulson in this movie looked just a bit digital, but young Nick Fury was absolutely convincing.
  • I loved the Carol Danvers / Nick Fury buddy cop road movie parts of this film. The two actors played beautifully off one another, and I could easily have had a full movie of Danvers’s and Fury’s road trip adventures.
  • And while we’re on the subject of Nick Fury, notice that he doesn’t make any fuss about helping with the washing up. That’s class.
  • Brie Larson is perfectly cast as Carol Danvers / Captain Marvel. She plays the character as tough, resourceful, and snarky without being overbearing, but also wounded and sometimes unsure of herself without undermining her own strength. By the end of the movie, we can totally believe that she is not only a super-powered hero who can blow up an invading spaceship by punching right through it, but also the kind of person whose response to an alien invasion would be to blow up their ship by punching right through it.
  • Monica is great, full of life and spirit in a believable way, and the relationship she has both with her mother Maria and her auntie Carol is beautiful to watch. It’s nice to see a movie quietly acknowledge that women can be loving mothers and aunties while also flying fighter jets, blowing up alien spaceships, and generally kicking ass. There is no reason why these things cannot be compatible.
  • Well, now we know how Fury lost his eye, and really, could it have happened in any better way?

 

Eppu’s random thoughts:

  • Going in, I had no idea what powers Captain Marvel has in the comics nor how she got them; everything I knew came from the trailers, but of course they don’t really explain anything. I confess I was curious how the heck was she able to fire photon blasts from her hands and fly. Aha—the Tesseract; a-okay.
  • The movie not only easily passed the Bechdel test, it chomped it up for breakfast. LOVED THAT. Just like in Black Panther, all the women were competent, complex, and clearly their own personas instead of cardboard cutouts or boob bimbos reciting lines.
  • Great acting all round, too. Brie Larson, Lashana Lynch, and Akira Akbar’s power trio was awesome! You could almost feel the history between the three. (And I really hope we get to see an older Monica Rambeau in MCU some day.) Annette Bening was wonderful despite her relatively short appearances, and Ben Mendelsohn was very impressive even through the latex mask. Jude Law I’ve never cared for, but he didn’t bother me in this.
  • While the pacing was ok, the plot felt overly complicated—and to be explicit, I’m not convinced it’s necessarily a bad thing. Then again, BP really has raised the stakes for MCU movies for me; stories are facing a steep uphill battle to get the gold star.
  • The movie sure had a lot on its plate. First it needed to introduce this new MCU character, give us some idea of who the Kree are, and outline the Skrull threat. Then we get glimpses into Danver’s previous life on Earth, the identities of Dr. Lawson / Mar-Vell plus Maria and Monica Rambeau, and the eventual regaining of Danver’s memories and relationship with the Rambeaus (but whether it was all memories or just most I’m still unsure about). Add to that not only the super-duper-short intro to S.H.I.E.L.D. and a more extensive one to Nick Fury, but also bringing Fury and Danvers together to chase leads, reversing the Skrull threat, adding the threat to Earth by Kree, the secret underneath the cute surface of Goose, Danvers discovering the extent of her abilities, and, finally, Danvers / Captain Marvel winning the day. Still, Captain Marvel didn’t feel quite as jam-packed as Avengers: Infinity War did.
  • Speaking of AIW, CM was clearly geared to directly feed into the upcoming Avengers: Endgame; the focus was on explaining how come this Captain Marvel character is the one Fury calls when shit really, truly hits the fan. Consequently, there wasn’t much room for showing how Carol Danvers came to be who she is, especially compared to the male heroes (say, Steve Rogers). It was interesting, though, to compare this origin story with that of the first few MCU origin stories / introductions (Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, and Captain America). I’m not the only one to compare Steve Rogers’s and Carol Danvers’s tenacity and their steadfastness in working towards their goals. Abigail Nussbaum put it best: “When she finally embraces what she is, she becomes unstoppable.” (As a side note, I thought the Carol Danvers character is quite good an example of the Finnish concept sisu. Steve Rogers is also in the right direction, but he didn’t have to time and again break through the glass ceiling women face.)
  • I loved how different a Fury we see, and can easily believe how this version could turn into the older one we were first introduced to—Samuel L. Jackson has great acting chops for sure. He didn’t just feel younger and less hardened than Director Fury, for the lack of a better word he felt lighter (more optimistic? more trusting? more naive? all of the above???).
  • Which reminds me: I almost cried out loud out of frustration towards the beginning when Fury and Coulson pursue Vers / the train in LA and they drove the wrong direction. That’s been done a gazillion times in action movies and I’ve had my fill of it. Fortunately it lasted only a few seconds. Phew.
  • Goose the cat being a Flerken able to swallow the Tesseract was a really interesting choice. Where did he end up living afterwards? And how long do they live to begin with?
  • Coulsooooon! Nice to see a glimpse of the young Coulson, too. (I’ve seen the first two seasons of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., with Coulson of course, but I just don’t find the series as satisfying as the movies.)
  • Ditto on Fury and dishes.
  • The canyon dogfight between Minn-Erva and Maria Rambeau was great. I was starting to be worried that Rambeau wasn’t going to be given any moments to shine in her own right (apart from being shown a great best friend and mother; i.e., only in relation to others). There were just two soldiers who happened to be women doing their jobs. Awesome.
  • Speaking of, Maria Rambeau got some of the best lines: “You call me ‘young lady’ again, I’ll shove my foot up somewhere it’s not supposed to be.”
  • Minor nitpicks include the crest on Vers’s helmet (looks stupid to me) and the unrealistically low amount of catcalling and/or harassment she gets at the train station looking for the Skrull runaway while wearing the Kree armor—then again, if LA residents are as focused on their own thing as NYC commuters are, it’s not that unrealistic after all. (Haven’t been to LA myself, so I don’t know.)
  • Best moments: “I’ve been fighting with one hand tied behind my back!” and “I have nothing to prove to you.” *pow!*
  • I’ll end with a note from a Forbes article by Scott Mendelson listing some of the film’s earnings: “Because the financial metrics, both in North America and overseas, clearly show that the future of the MCU is essentially everything except more white guys named Chris.” *harf!* 😀 You got that right.

 

Image: Brie Larson as Carol Danvers from Captain Marvel via IMDb

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.

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Celebrating International Women’s Day with a Captain Marvel Viewing

March 08 is International Women’s Day. Very appropriately, we are celebrating by going to see Captain Marvel!

IMDB Captain Marvel Eyes Horizontal

I’m hoping it’ll be as awesome as the trailers look!

To the people complaining that this version of Marvel is too political and therefore massively off-putting, I have only one thing to say.

(Long post warning.)

Read the whole post.

Rating: Murdoch Mysteries, Season 6

It’s another season of Murdoch for us to rewatch and rate. This one flies high at the beginning, then crashes and burns at the end. Here’s our take:

  1. “Murdoch Air” – 10
  2. “Winston’s Lost Night” – 6.5
  3. “Murdoch on the Corner” – 8
  4. “A Study in Sherlock” – 7
  5. “Murdoch au Naturel” – 7.5
  6. “Murdoch and the Cloud of Doom” – 6.5
  7. “The Ghost of Queen’s Park” – 6
  8. “Murdoch in Ladies’ Wear” – 2.5
  9. “Victoria Cross” – 5.5
  10. “Twisted Sisters” – 3.5
  11. “Lovers in a Murderous Time” – 3
  12. “Crime and Punishment” – 0
  13. “The Murdoch Trap” – 0

This is a remarkable season of Murdoch Mysteries, ranging from the very best the show has to offer to the very worst. The average for this season is only 5.1, which is the lowest yet for a season of Murdoch, but the average is deceptive since this season is half good-to-brilliant and half disappointing-at-best with not a lot falling in the middle range. It’s an odd roller coaster of a season, and, like all roller coasters, it eventually ends at the bottom.

That bottom is pretty darned low. “Crime and Punishment” and “The Murdoch Trap,” both rating a solid 0, make up a two-parter in which two of our least favorite things get combined: overly clever serial killers who get away with everything and artificial barriers thrown up by writers to squeeze more drama out of romantic angst. Darcy Garland, the multi-season speed bump to the blossoming relationship between Detective Murdoch and Doctor Ogden, suffers a character assassination this season as he goes from being reasonable and charming to being obstreperous and capricious, all for the writers’ increasingly desperate ploys to keep Murdoch and Ogden apart as long as possible. Rather than offer us something truly new and original on tv—reasonable adults dealing with complicated emotions with compassion, self-awareness, and generosity—the writers fall back on one of the most worn-out tropes of mystery fiction: have the offending interloper murdered by a genius serial killer who frames the detective. These are two episodes we will never be watching again.

But what a joy of an episode we get to start the season off with! “Murdoch Air” earns its full 10 rating with a thrilling opening, some great character moments, the return of the beloved James Pendrick, a dash of international intrigue courtesy of Myers and Clegg, and an exhilarating ending that has Murdoch soaring over Niagara Falls years before the Wright brothers got airborne. “Murdoch Air” has a little bit of everything that makes Murdoch so delightful.

There are a lot of other good episodes in the first half of the season, too, bringing us young Winston Churchill boozing around Toronto, a Sherlock Holmes impersonator with a mystery of his own to solve, an introduction to the turn-of-the-century nudist movement, and a poison-gas terrorist. On the other hand, you can skip the second half of the season and not miss much.

How did you like this season of Murdoch? Was the final two-parter right up your alley? Not thrilled by the airborne first episode? Let us know!

Image: Constable Crabtree trying pizza, from Murdoch Mysteries via IMDb.

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Some Random Thoughts on Aquaman

We were late to see Aquaman, but here, finally, are some random thoughts in no particular order.

Spoiler warning very much in effect!

IMDb Aquaman Comic-Con Poster

  • First of all: visually, it was a feast! In the theater while waiting for the movie to start, Erik mentioned he’d read somewhere someone say that Aquaman will change the way movies are expected to look for this generation the same way (I assume the original) Star Wars did for previous generations. I’d fully believe it: so many different effects and environments, all polished off to a regal shine (if you’ll pardon me for being corny for a bit). I’d also say this: while the SW prequels attempted to shower the audience with rich sets and visuals, they ultimately just didn’t reach the level of breathtaking; Aquaman (and Moana, Rogue One, and SW:XIII) actually succeeded.
  • The character Tom Curry (played by Temuera Morrison), the lighthouse keeper, looked Polynesian and sounded like a Kiwi. For a character who’s supposed to be a Mainer that was a bit of a whiplash. Then again, the world is more international these days than ever before.
  • Speaking of Maine and lighthouses, even I could tell there were too few trees in the “Maine” scenes. It looks like they were filmed in Newfoundland, so that would explain it. Other than that, the supposedly northern locations looked at least plausible—the rocky coast looks just right, in fact—so a plus for that. (I’m the kind of northener who happens to care whether my home is misrepresented or not.)
  • I’ve never read the comics, so I have no idea which plot elements came from where; I can’t comment from that point of view. (Literally, what I knew is Raj from The Big Bang Theory saying “Aquaman sucks!”) With that caveat, at first I was merely amused by the mixing of the Atlantean and Arthurian legends, but they kinda made it work. The antagonist’s father-son-tragedy-as-backstory was unfortunately tiresome, but at least it was given to black people, plus Yahya Abdul-Mateen II really rocked as Manta. (I’m so sick of seeing middle-aged white men wrangling with son guilt. Hey Leverage—I’m talking about you especially!)
  • The Tom-Atlanna romance was seemingly set up exatly like the dime-a-dozen action movies that have come before: man meets woman, she blows his mind with her awesomeness, they fall in love only to have him lose her In Order to Have Feelings(TM). Thankfully, Aquaman not only didn’t follow the trope through, it subverted parts of it: instead of dying, Queen Atlanna thoroughly wiped the deck with the team sent to bring her back to Atlantis (while he protected their child, Arthur, having correctly determined that her enhanced abilities would allow the family to survive—I just LOVE smart, self-confident, genuine, non-egotistical men). After the attack, Atlanna decided she’d better return voluntarily to protect Tom and Arthur, and subsequently was reported to have been sacrificed to a Verifiable Monster of the Deep, again making it look like the plot fridged her to give Tom the Official Permission to Wallow, but no—towards the end, we find out she not only survived, but carved a haven for herself and joined Princess Mera and Arthur in their quest for the super trident.
  • In the same vein, the Mera-Arthur romance was foreseeable and dull. At least the movie gave her the initiative unlike so many prior Hollywood stories.
  • Surprisingly, I didn’t mind Nicole Kidman as Atlanna.
  • Hairwise, surprisingly many characters kept their long hair loose even underwater. I would’ve thought it would be in the way too much, at least for the guards and other fighters. Mera’s hair was too red for my taste (The Little Mermaid, anyone?), but Vulko (played by Willem Dafoe) had quite a cute man bun/thing.
  • Overall, I felt that characters didn’t fare that well, unfortunately. Apart from Atlanna and Mera, I can’t remember any other women having more than a line, if that, except for the Fisherman Princess (and that’s really pushing it, too). Why is is that the only women being shown as active, rounded-out people instead of plot-relevant placeholders* are royalty? Not to forget the many mer-men who barely got defined as individuals. The creators clearly made a choice to focus on the story and visuals instead of characters. I’d rather see great characters AND great story, preferably with knock-out visuals, too; that’s why I love Black Panther so much.
  • I found the five underwater kingdoms that separated from the original Atlantean culture quite cliched, flat, and underdeveloped. Looks like developing the visuals took precedence indeed.
  • And wow—the Verifiable Monster of the Deep was monstrous!
  • And whatever else you might say, Aquaman really was epic. That said, some of the power poses approached ridiculous, but I suppose that happens easily when adapting superhero comics.
  • The final fight between Manta plus his goons and Mera plus Aquaman happened in a small seaside town in the Mediterranean, and it was inventive and not too predictable. However, we last see Manta plunging into the water from a cliff, bouncing off the rocks in the process. Now, one of my pet peeves is when a protagonist survives repeated and super violent hits, shakes, car crashes, what have you, because no matter how well a human body may be armored, your brain can still whiplash inside your skull, and that, as I understand, is really the life-threatening aspect of being hit too hard on the head. I thought that was it for Manta after his plunge and felt pleased Aquaman avoided yet another trope, but no—in a stinger, we see him drag himself to the shore. Argh!

Did you see Aquaman? What did you think?

Image: Aquaman Comic-Con poster via IMDb.

*) The delightful term plot-relevant placeholder is from a review by Liz Bourke—thank you!

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.

2-Hour Fan-Made Pokémon Musical Online

Any Pokémon fans here? This might be of interest.

In 2016, a group of dedicated fans in Finland created a musical based on Pokémon games, toured the country, and uploaded a two-hour video of the live performance online:

“Valitsen sinut! -musikaali (I Choose You! The Musical) is an entirely fan-made musical based on Pokémon games Red, Blue and Yellow, as well as the first season of the anime. Behind the project there is a volunteer team of 50 people, and the musical toured Finland in 2016, the 20th anniversary of Pokémon.

“We’re not affiliated with Nintendo or Pokémon Company in any way. No one was paid for the project, and our crowdfunding was used fully for creating the musical.”

Valitsen sinut! -musikaali on YouTube

The performance is entirely in Finnish, but English subtitles are available on YouTube.

So far, I haven’t seen more than a few minutes from the beginning. Looks like the performers were really motivated, though, and enjoyed themselves. Really cool. I’ll have to carve time to see the whole. Mahtavaa!

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Aithiopia Forever

The Greek historian Herodotus tells us some interesting stories about the people he refers to as Ethiopians (or Aithiopes in Greek). The term Ethiopians/Aithiopes was widely used in ancient Greece for any dark-skinned people from the southern regions of Africa or India, but the people Herodotus means were those who lived in the northeastern African interior, south of Egypt along the Nile, in the region we know as Nubia.

Herodotus reports several remarkable things about these Ethiopians.While many of these stories are fanciful, or at least greatly exaggerated, they paint an interesting picture of what Herodotus and his fellow Greeks imagined the people of inner Africa to be like.

They were physically impressive and long-lived:

The Ethiopians are said to be the tallest and most beautiful of all peoples.

– Herodotus, Histories 3.20

Most of them live to 120 and some surpass this.

– Herodotus, Histories 3.23

They enjoyed a life of ease and good health, enabled by the special resources of their land:

There is a meadow outside the city filled with boiled meats from animals of all kinds. The lords of the city make it their custom to set these meats out at night, and during the day anyone who wants to may feast there. The locals say that the earth itself provides these things.

– Herodotus, Histories 3.18

[The Ethiopians possessed] a spring where they washed themselves and became sleeker, as if they had bathed in oil, even though it smelled of violets. … [T]he water of this spring was so light that nothing could float on it, neither wood nor anything lighter. Everything just sank to the bottom. If what they say is true, it seems likely that it is their regular use of this spring that makes them all so long-lived.

– Herodotus, Histories 3.23

They have an interesting way of choosing their leader:

Their customs are unlike those of any other people, and especially their kingship: they choose as king the one among them who is tallest and has the strength to match his height.

– Herodotus, Histories 3.20

And they preferred to be left alone and not be bothered by the rest of the world’s problems:

The Ethiopian king said [to the Persian king’s emissaries]: “The king of the Persians does not send you with these gifts because he desires my friendship, nor have you spoken the truth, for you have come here to spy on my kingdom. Nor is that man just, for if he were he would not desire the lands of others or enslave men who have done him no wrong. Now, give him this bow and say to him: ‘The king of the Ethiopians advises the king of the Persians that when a Persian can draw so strong a bow as easily as I do, then he may contemplate making war upon the long-lived Ethiopians. Until then, let him thank the gods for not putting the sons of the Ethiopians in a mood to conquer other lands.’”

– Herodotus, Histories 3.21

I think you can see where I’m going with this.

Herodotus’ Aithiopia is essentially Wakanda.

Happy anniversary, Black Panther!

Image: T’Challa and Shuri via Giphy

Serving exactly what it sounds like, the Quotes feature excerpts other people’s thoughts.

Rating: Murdoch Mysteries, Season 5

Season 5 of Murdoch Mysteries sees a new addition to the cast, ongoing relationship drama, and the return of some of our favorite and least favorite recurring characters. Here’s how we rated the season’s episodes:

  1. “Murdoch of the Klondike” – 7
  2. “Back and to the Left” – 8
  3. “Evil Eye of Egypt” – 6
  4. “War on Terror” – 6
  5. “Murdoch at the Opera” – 4
  6. “Who Killed the Electric Carriage” – 7
  7. “Stroll on the Wild Side, Part 1” – 5.5
  8. “Stroll on the Wild Side, Part 2” – 4
  9. “Invention Convention” – 8.5
  10. “Staircase to Heaven” – 4
  11. “Murdoch in Toyland” – 2
  12. “Murdoch Night in Canada” – 4.5
  13. “Twentieth Century Murdoch” – 5

The average rating this season is 5.5, a little weak but still decent. This season has a lot going for it, but at the same time has some problems that weigh it down. The season starts off strong with “Murdoch of the Klondike” in which a disillusioned Murdoch turned prospector decides to take up the badge once again, and “Back and to the Left,” an ingenious case of political intrigue which plays with the tropes of Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories. The latter half of the season drags a bit under the weight of a few too many recurring characters whose stories get in the way of Murdoch doing what Murdoch does best.

Our least favorite episode of the season is “Murdoch in Toyland,” which we gave a 2. James Gillies, from season 2‘s “Big Murderer on Campus” returns with an overdone and rather absurd plot to annoy Murdoch. We have absolutely had our fill of clever serial killers who follow detectives around like puppies pooping on the furniture for attention. No more.

At the top, we rated “Invention Convention” an 8.5. In this episode, an ingenious device used to murder a competitive inventor seems to have been a collaborative effort by his rivals, but turns out to have been even more insidious. This episode features Alexander Graham Bell and lets Murdoch geek out over some before-their-time inventions ranging from the Lazy Susan to e-mail.

One of the best features of this season is the introduction of Dr. Emily Grace as Dr. Ogden’s assistant-on-the-way-to-replacement in the morgue. We enjoy Dr. Grace’s fresh and sometimes shockingly modern (for 1899) perspective, and she has great onscreen chemistry with the established characters. For a series that in the past has struggled to even nominally pass the Bechdel test, adding a second regular female character is also very welcome (although quite a few of this season’s episodes still fail the test, or squeak by on technicalities).

Many familiar guest stars return for another go this season, some more welcome than others. James Gillies we have already mentioned—he worked well for one episode, but he should have ended there. Canadian secret agent Terrence Myers makes a return appearance, as does his American counterpart Allen Clegg. Both actors are always wonderful to watch, but their episode falls a bit flat. Anna Fulford, who helped Murdoch when he was on the run in England and suffering from amnesia back in season 3, makes a welcome return, but her double episode doesn’t use the character nearly as well. On the other hand, James Pendrick is back Pendricking things up with a solar-powered electric car and a gentleman’s feud with Henry Ford that makes for an entertaining episode.

How about the rest of you? What did you love (or not) from this season?

Image: Murdoch Mysteries ladies doing science via IMDb

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.

Miss Sherlock Is Now Available – Thoughts?

I first heard about Miss Sherlock in the spring of 2018, but wasn’t able to track it down then. In December, I found a review by Kaisu Tervonen in Helsingin Sanomat, the largest Finnish daily. (NB. Finnish only.)

HS HBO Miss Sherlock Playing Cello

The Sherlock character is called Sara Shelly Futaba (played by Yūko Takeuchi). She’s a consultant specializing in criminal psychology. Our Sherlock / Futaba meets her Doctor Watson or Wato Tachibana (Shihori Kanjiya) at a murder scene of a good colleague of Wato’s after the doctor returned from Syria.

In a familiar manner, the two end up solving mysteries, one per episode. What the series is really about, apparently, is first building and then endangering their friendship.

Since I last wrote, also the IMDB entry for Miss Sherlock has been updated and the episode descriptions added.

With regard to U.S. viewing, I’ve found out that you can stream (for a fee) all of the season 1 (8 episodes) at Hulu with English subtitles, but I haven’t had the time to check that out.

The HS reviewer wasn’t very impressed, so I’m a little dubious. Have you seen any episodes at all? Please chime in!

Image: HBO Miss Sherlock / HBO via Helsingin Sanomat

P.S. Twitter users have uploaded some screencaps.

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.

Rating: Murdoch Mysteries, Season 4

The adventures of Victorian Toronto’s most scientifically-minded detective continue in Murdoch Mysteries season 4, and we’re here to rate them.

  1. “Tattered and Torn” – 4
  2. “Kommando” – 5
  3. “Buffalo Shuffle” – 5.5
  4. “Downstairs, Upstairs” – 6.5
  5. “Monsieur Murdoch” – 4
  6. “Dead End Street” – 10
  7. “Confederate Treasure” – 7.5
  8. “Dial M for Murdoch” – 5
  9. “The Black Hand” – 5.5
  10. “Voices” – 6
  11. “Bloodlust” – 7
  12. “The Kissing Bandit” – 6
  13. “Murdoch in Wonderland” – 5.5

The average rating for this season is 6, down a little bit from last season’s 6.6, but still perfectly respectable. This season represents a good mix of the usual Murdoch fare: there’s a Victorian-flavored version of a contemporary-feeling story (“Kommando,” about soldiers experiencing frightening side effects of experimental drugs), Murdoch-ized takes on popular modern shows and movies (“Downstairs, Upstairs,” about a murder in a house full of servants, and “Dial M for Murdoch” about a telephone operator who thinks she overhears a murder), nineteenth-century international intrigue (“Confederate Treasure,” about the hunt for a missing fortune in gold from the time of the American Civil War), and Murdoch inventing modern technologies (sonar in “Confederate Treasure,” image scanning in “Monsieur Murdoch”). This season also brings us a tedious new turn in the will-they-or-won’t-they tease of Murdoch and Dr. Julia Ogden, as Dr. Ogden moves away from Toronto, moves back, and marries her new beau Dr. Darcy Garland, while Detective Murdoch wallows in uninteresting tongue-tied despair. Still, all in all, a solid season of Murdoch.

The lowest-rating episodes this season are a couple of 4s: “Tattered and Torn,” in which the discovery of multiple mutilated bodies encased in concrete leads Detective Murdoch to revisit an old rape and murder case, and “Monsieur Murdoch,” in which Murdoch investigates the disappearance of a young French woman who may not be who claimed to be at all. There is nothing particularly wrong with either of these episodes. Both are perfectly competent, but they are also both a little lacking. The pacing sags a bit, the casting is a little off, and the conclusions don’t entirely live up to the promise of the opening mysteries. Still, even these lesser efforts of Murdoch are fun to watch and worth coming back to now and then.

On the other hand, this season has one outstanding episode that gets a full 10 from us: “Dead End Street,” in which Murdoch discovers the clues to a murder in an intricate model of a neighborhood made by a woman who does not communicate in any other way. This case unfolds quietly but intricately as Murdoch faces the challenge of learning about the crime from a witness with an extraordinarily detailed recall of events, but whom he cannot question. Liisa Repo-Martell delivers a powerful guest performance as the model-building woman, conveying the deep intelligence and sensitivity of a person who relates to the world around her in a way very unlike her neighbors.

All in all, an excellent season of Murdcoh, with a lot worth coming back to.

Image: Murdoch Mysteries main cast via IMDb

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.

Rating: Murdoch Mysteries, Season 3

Onward to season 3 of Murdoch Mysteries we go, rewatching and rating each episode. Here’s our take:

  1. “The Murdoch Identity” – 8
  2. “The Great Wall” – 6
  3. “Victor, Victorian” – 6.5
  4. “Rich Boy, Poor Boy” – 6
  5. “Me, Myself & Murdoch” – 8.5
  6. “This One Goes to Eleven” – 7.5
  7. “Blood and Circuses” – 5
  8. “Future Imperfect” – 4
  9. “Love and Human Remains” – 9
  10. “The Curse of Beaton Manor” – 7
  11. “Hangman” – 6
  12. “In the Altogether” – 4
  13. “ The Tesla Effect” – 8

The average rating for this season is a strong 6.6, a bit up even from last season’s quite good 6.2. Season 3 continues to build on the series’ strengths—complex mysteries, whimsical humor, and an eye for finding Victorian equivalents to modern issues—while also striking out in some new ways. One innovation this season is the introduction of an ongoing plot surrounding the newly-introduced character of James Pendrick, a visionary inventor who keeps getting tangled up in Detective Murdoch’s investigations. Starting halfway through the season, Mr. Pendrick’s misadventures lead up to a surprise finale that changes our perception of him and the preceding episodes in clever ways.

Unfortunately, the Pendrick storyline also gives us the two lowest-rated episodes of this season, both rating 4: “Future Imperfect,” in which Murdoch and company intersect with H. G. Wells and the eugenics movement, and “In the Altogether,” in which prostitutes and pornographers are caught up in a blackmailing scandal. Each episode has its merits and good moments, but they are dragged down by the need to serve the unfolding Pendrick drama, which leaves too little room for their own individual stories to develop.

By contrast, the best episode of the season, “Love and Human Remains,” at 9, tells a story that, for all its small and self-contained scope, offers a bounty of human drama and investigative intrigue. When the bodies of a murdered couple turn up at a building site, Murdoch goes digging through the past, peeling back layers of time to uncover a story of cruelty, desperation, and, ultimately, the triumph of love over adversity. It is one of the rare mysteries where you want the crime to be solved, but you end up glad that it goes unpunished.

Honorable mention goes to “Me, Myself & Murdoch,” the second best episode of the season at 8.5, which offers a similarly tangled tale of murder, abuse, mental illness, and the unbreakable bonds of love. In this episode, which nods to the historical Lizzie Borden case, a young woman is suspected of having murdered her father with an axe, only to turn out to have multiple personalities whose different perspectives allow Murdoch to piece together an older, even more grisly crime. Guest star Anastasia Phillips gives a virtuoso performance as the young woman under suspicion, whose shifts in personality from terrified to terrifying are amazing to watch.

Murdoch Mysteries remains a pleasure to watch and rewatch.

Image: Murdoch Mysteries main cast via IMDb

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.